The Korean automaker looks set to face a big financial burden.
Hyundai and Kia will face the music in court after a judge rejected their bids to throw out a lawsuit over the viral TikTok-related thefts that have plagued many of the automakers' older vehicles.
US District Judge James Selna in Santa Ana, California, dismissed Hyundai and Kia's claim that insurers shouldn't be able to recover losses after the automakers argued that insurers had received premiums and had assumed risk, reports Reuters. Judge Selna also found that the lack of anti-theft devices on 14.3 million Hyundai and Kia vehicles sold between 2011 and 2022 made the thefts very likely.
"Though [the insurers] have received premiums, defendants allegedly failed to include any anti-theft device as required under federal regulations. Thus, the level of fault is almost entirely on the defendants," said Judge Selna.
Hyundai said it was disappointed with Selna's verdict but added that its American dealerships have installed anti-theft software on over one million vehicles. Introduced earlier this year, the free fix modifies the vehicle control module to activate an 'ignition kill' when the alarm is operated via the key fob. Despite this, the TikTok trend continues to plague owners.
Kia believes the plaintiffs' legal claims are unfounded and added that all its vehicles comply with government safety and anti-theft standards.
Previously, the automakers offered a legal settlement worth $200 million that would have helped affected customers who didn't have insurance or now have to contend with high insurance premiums related to Hyundai and Kia theft.
However, Selna rejected the offer in the Hyundai and Kia class action lawsuit, stating that it was not "fair and adequate" for affected owners. As it stands, more than 9 million vehicles are plagued by this problem.
Popularized on the social media platform TikTok, the so-called 'Kia Boyz' shared how easy it is to steal these vehicles. With only a USB cable and a screwdriver, thieves can break into cars like the Kia Soul or Hyundai Elantra and drive off within minutes.
Some cities have attempted to sue Hyundai and Kia over how easy these vehicles are to steal. Earlier this year, we also reported on how several state attorneys have called on the manufacturers to recall these cars, noting that this oversight has put owners and the general public at risk.
With an ineffective fix, Hyundai and Kia must either cough up the cash or find a way of proving that they're blameless. The former is looking more likely with each passing judgment.